North Wales health board looking to increase public testing capacity
Health chiefs are looking to bolster public testing capacity following a spike in Covid-19 cases across the region, but concerns have been raised that such action may not come soon enough.
The move follows concerns in Gwynedd and Anglesey that despite the planned opening of a facility in Bangor over the coming weeks, members of the public are currently having to travel to Llandudno for their nearest drive-through test centre.
But this morning the health board confirmed that they are looking to expand capacity and open up the region’s four community testing centres for public use.
At present such centres, prioritising health and other key workers, are located at Parc Menai in Bangor, Ysbyty Alltwen near Porthmadog, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan and Ysbyty Maelor in Wrexham.
Teresa Owen, Executive Director of Public Health for Betsi Cadwaladr Universtity Health Board, said: “We are currently working on a proposal which will allow members of the public, with symptoms of COVID-19, to access a test at any of our four Community Testing Centres across North Wales in the near future.
“Where possible, we have been testing members of the public at Ysbyty Alltwen where there is evidence that they have struggled to access a test elsewhere.”
Calls to open up capacity at Alltwen for public testing had intensified after another 14 positive cases were recorded in Gwynedd on Monday.
This comes on top of the previous seven day rolling average of 47.4 per 100,000 people – perilously close to the 50 figure often quoted by the Welsh Government as a trigger point for potential stricter restrictions.
Gwynedd and Anglesey are the only North Wales counties not currently subject to a “local lockdown,” after a previous spike in cases was acted upon in Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy.
Cllr Nia Jeffreys, who represents Porthmadog East, said: “All the experts have been telling us for months the importance of testing.
“But forcing people from Dwyfor, who are already ill, to travel an hour or more for a test makes no sense at all.
“Alltwen is a modern hospital, with good access and very central in the county, its perfect for a testing centre.
“Promises for the ‘near future’ are not acceptable and too vague – numbers are rising today.
“There’s clear evidence that people in Dwyfor are struggling to get tests and Alltwen should be opened to the public urgently.”
At a weekly briefing on the Covid-19 outbreak, Welsh Government health minister Vaughan Gething said on Monday that the rising numbers in Gwynedd are understood to be connected to “a handful of positive cases within the student population.”
But Arfon MS Sian Gwenllian has questioned the delay in opening a public facility in Bangor, questioning “where has the Welsh Government been up until now?”
She said: “The Welsh Government doesn’t seem to have heard of forward planning, even after months of the pandemic.
“I can’t believe that it will be another two weeks before we get a new testing centre in Bangor.
“It was evident that we would need more testing when students returned to school, local colleges, and Bangor University.
“This situation is simply not good enough. Efficient testing and tracing is essential to halt the spread of the virus.”
A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “A new local testing centre is due to open at Bangor University within two weeks.
“The local health board also has three mobile testing units and community testing centres in Ysbyty Alltwen and Ysbyty Gwynedd, which can be used to test members of the public in the event of an outbreak in the area.”
Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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